At a special presentation in Canberra last night, public architectural projects across Australia demonstrated a winning mix of ‘community spirit, intensity, humility, beauty and hope for the future. Many of those winners represent the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment as staff and alumni.


From urban design to public, commercial, heritage, interior and sustainable architecture, projects skillfully blending these elements took top honours presented at the Australian Institute of Architects’ National Architecture Awards, the country’s most prestigious annual architecture prizes.

The 2010 awards were presented to the nation’s most inspiring recent architectural projects and architects. A total of 33 awards and commendations across 12 categories were awarded to projects in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and offshore in Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Tanzania, Indonesia and India.

Presenting the awards, Jury Chair Melinda Dodson said: “It’s a contradictory time for architecture – we’ve had economic buoyancy followed by economic downturn. As architects we’re part of a carbon emitting industry, so it’s natural that the jury reflected on the future, applied the 'enduring architecture' test, and the essential test of sustainability. We were heartened by the many instances of architects demonstrating leadership, advocacy and innovation. Projects where a positive transformative act had occurred, resulting in new ideas for the profession and for the community about architecture; architects doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Often leadership and perseverance was matched by the client.”

Our Professor Ken Maher, with his firm Hassell, who also chairs the Dean’s Advisory Council and is an alumnus, was awarded the 2010 Sir Zelman Cowen Award for Public Architecture for the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link, Intermediate Stations in Sydney. In a triple win for Professor Maher’s firm, HASSELL, they also received the Emil Sodersten Award for Interior Architecture for the ANZ Centre in Melbourne, and a National Commendation for Urban Design for the Adelaide Zoo Entrance Precinct in Adelaide.

Ms Dodson said the Intermediate Stations represented “a genuine evolutionary and visionary approach to station management and work environments. This all contributes to a project of unique competence and beauty that derives its architecture through common sense with sensitive design decisions”. Access elements “appear as sculptures within a space which is free of ornamentation, beautifully ordered and reliant only on light and people to colour the architecture”.
Visiting Professor Richard Francis-Jones from Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) who is also a guest design studio critic at the Faculty received a National Award for Public Architecture and a National Award for Sustainable Architecture for the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre.

Faculty lecturer Philip Thalis, Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects and alumnus (and member of the Dean’s Advisory Council) Sacha Coles from Aspect Studios received the Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design for the much used and enjoyed Pirrama Park at Pyrmont Hill. The jury noted that in “a city a city enamoured with its harbour image Sydney has surprisingly few places where you can dangle your feet in the water”, with Pirrama Park now being one of those”. They said: “This is a great public place because it respects the past without treating it as a museum artefact; it has spatial, material and planting variety; and it offers a model for the future redevelopment of the harbour foreshore. That industrial heritage is a useful part of the urban realm is a point of some contention in cities across the globe. In the context of this debate Pirrama Park is a provocation – articulating the way the less picturesque, gritty aspects of the past can make a powerful contribution to the life of our cities.”

Visiting Professor Neil Dubach representing Durbach Block Architects was awarded this year’s top Harry Seidler Award for Commercial Architecture for an exemplary new commercial building in the heart of Kings Cross described by the jury as both a “place maker” for the public and workplace communities - 5-9 Roslyn Street in Kings Cross. The jury said the building has “a particularly human quality” and they had “a strong sense that this building would adapt and change gracefully to changes in commercial use over time – a mark of an exemplar commercial building”.

Dean of UNSW Faculty of Built Environment, Professor Alec Tzannes said, ‘this is an outstanding result for the Faculty and that of the University. It strengthens our position as being innovative and deeply committed to providing a holistic and sustainable approach to student learning with global perspective. The awards are highly esteemed by industry and recognise the design excellence of our professors, lecturers and alumni.’